Bill Beaumont believes World Rugby’s revised Test calendar window for 2020 will be voted through on Thursday despite concerns from the administrations running the club leagues in England and France. Club owners are reportedly unhappy that regulation nine, which governs player release for international duty, will be extended to cover the expanded Test calendar that World Rugby have recommended. 

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But Beaumont has outlined that the revision of the Test schedule will actually balance itself out in terms of player availability to French and England clubs, claiming the revised measures won’t see players away from their clubs more than they are in an ordinary year.

Speaking on The Breakdown, the weekly Sky Sport NZ TV rugby programme, ahead of Thursday’s World Rugby council vote on the revised Test window for later in 2020, Beaumont was hopeful the extended window plan will be agreed. 

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“They [English and French clubs] were concerned and I think they still are concerned that they could well be losing players but… because the English season, for instance, will hopefully kick off on August 15, the French season will start on September 3, and normally they would be missing a lot of players at the start of September because they would be playing in the Rugby Championship anyway.

“So look, World Rugby have made the decision that it is right for the global game, that we have to get international rugby up and running because at the end of the day that is what funds the game. That funds the game whether it’s the provincial game in New Zealand, whether it is the provincial game in England. International rugby funds that for every little rugby club on the planet.” 

Beaumont also hinted that World Rugby’s ongoing independent governance review could potentially shake up the allocation of voting rights to member countries. The Englishman was recently re-elected as chairman of the global rugby body, securing 28 of the available 51 votes in a head-to-head contest with Argentine Agustin Pichot.

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However, the election was mired by criticism regarding the voting structure whereby smaller countries such as Japan, who hosted the most successful World Cup of all time in 2019, don’t have the same number of votes as nations competing in the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship.

The six Six Nations countries – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy – all had three votes, while the four Sanzaar countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina – also had three votes.

Japan had two votes while seven other countries – Romania, Georgia, Uruguay, USA, Canada, Samoa and Fiji – had one apiece. That gave a total of 39 ‘country’ votes. Then there were six regions – Africa, Asia, Europe, North/Central America, South America and Oceania – who each had two votes, giving a total of 12 ‘region’ votes – and an overall total of 51.

Featuring on the TV rugby show fronted by former All Blacks Jeff Wilson, Mils Muliaina and John Kirwan, Beaumont was put on the spot about the current inequalities of the current voting system. Broaching the subject, Muliaina asked: “The voting system, it’s not very democratic, is it? When can we see it change so the likes of the Pacific Islands can have an equal vote… when can we see that change?”

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Speaking from Spain, Beaumont said: “Part of my manifesto was that there was going to be a complete review of the governance and that is taking place at the moment. “I’m not involved in that but certainly every union have the right to write in to Hugh Robertson, who is an independent chairman of that group, and they will then make their recommendation.

“But if you think in the previous four years I was there, we had extra votes. We had Fiji, Samoa came onto the council, Japan got extra votes, Argentina got extra votes. There is an opportunity now for countries to get a seat at the table and get extra votes, but I’m not pre-judging what will happen in the governance review. Let’s look forward and see what that has to say there.”

Kirwan didn’t let the matter rest there, asking: “What would your personal decision be, Bill?”

Beaumont replied: “My personal decision is that you have to ensure they feel that the Pacific Islands are sat at the table, which they are at the moment with the exception of Tonga, and I think you have a situation now where it is voting where some countries have one vote, other countries have two votes, others have three and four votes and that is on a weighted voting system and that is something that was decided in Tokyo two years ago.

“We’ve obviously had the coronavirus (since then)… what I have had to concentrate on is trying to pull everybody together around this dreadful pandemic we have got.”

Beaumont further threw his support behind speculation that could see a Hawaiian club enter Major League Rugby and Fijian/Japanese teams included in a refreshed Super Rugby set-up. “We should do, without a doubt. What I have found interesting from watching your programme and reading in the press, certainly there seems to be a huge enthusiasm south of the equator.

“Certainly the team they are talking about putting in Hawaii in Major League Rugby, I have heard that Fiji or Japan could be invited into Super Rugby – these are decisions that need to be taken because we are in a position at the moment where players and teams have been travelling the globe and I don’t think this will return in the near future, so what we have to do is be creative and work together with our partners.”

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